Seven family members who died in house fire identified

Embu fire victims

Police load into a vehicle the body of a victim of the Sunday dawn fire at Ngimari village in Embu County. Seven members of the same family died in the house inferno.

Photo credit: George Munene I Nation Media Group

Seven members of the same family who died in a house fire at dawn on Sunday in Ngimari village, Embu County, have been identified.

They are Charles Kariuki, 45, his wife Catherine Wanjiru, 42, and their three children Judy Wanjiku, 25, Maryanne Murugi, 14, and Joel Njeru, 9.

The couple's grandchildren, Blessing Tumaini, 4, and Princess Baraka, 6, also died in the blaze, sending shock waves across the sprawling village.

Mr Kariuki was a macadamia farmer, while his wife was a trader in Runyenjes town.

The couple's second-born daughter, Murugi, was a Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination candidate and their son Njeru was a Grade Four pupil.

Ms Wanjiku, the couple's elder daughter whose two children also perished with her, was living at the home.

The victims were burnt beyond recognition as they slept in the family’s three-bedroom timber house in a suspected arson.

Efforts by the villagers to save the family were futile.

Neighbours said they heard screams and rushed to the scene, only to find a huge fire had engulfed the building.

"On arrival at the scene, we saw a huge fire burning the house and tried to put it out but we were overwhelmed,” said resident Josphat Mwendia.

“The whole building was reduced to ashes and nothing was salvaged, while all members of the family succumbed to severe burns."

Police arrived at the scene and found that the family had been wiped out.

As the bodies of the victims were pulled out of the burnt building, some villagers broke down and wept and they had to be assisted away by law enforcers.

"We suspect the attack was well planned and executed," another villager said.

Villagers urged detectives to find the perpetrators of the alleged attack, calling it inhuman.

"We are in deep sorrow following what happened to our fellow villagers. We want the police to ascertain the truth of the matter," said resident Linus Bundi.

Before Sunday’s incident Mrs Wanjiru was attacked by unknown criminals at night on her way home from Runyenjes after closing her business.

She was rescued by Good Samaritans after raising the alarm.

"At one time, Mrs Wanjiru was ambushed as she walked home from town and she escaped death by a whisker. We suspect the same criminals who attacked her are responsible for the latest incident, which has thrown us into mourning," another villager said.

Conclude investigations

Embu East Deputy Commissioner Jane Waringe described the deaths as “unfortunate”, saying the cause of the fire could not be immediately established.

She appealed to villagers to be patient and allow detectives to conclude their investigations.

"Even the neighbours can't know what really happened. We all woke up to find dead victims," Ms Waringe said.

She asked anyone with information about the incident to share it with detectives.

Local leaders, led by Woman Representative Njoki Njeru and Runyenjes MP Eric Muchangi, urged investigators to unearth the truth.

"We want to know whether the victims were fatally attacked or not. It is a sad day for Embu people and the leaders because we have lost some of our own," Ms Njeru said.

Embu Deputy Governor Kinyua Mugo said the incident should be thoroughly investigated.

Embu East sub-county deputy police boss Monica Mwarania said the bodies of the victims were taken to a local mortuary.

She was optimistic that the truth would be established.